8 minutes

I'm not saying it lasts forever. But if you've got eight minutes and a phone or computer, this is worth a try. Also, 7 other things worth your time.

What if I could show you a way to calm anxiety in just a few minutes, using principles of neuroscience?

It has to do with listening to an 8-minute audio track specifically designed and recorded in a way to trigger specific neurological reactions in your brain.

A colleague over on Inc.com wrote once that it reduces anxiety by 65 percent, and I happened to remember it recently. So, I approached it with skepticism. But, since it's only eight minutes, it’s free, and it requires almost zero effort, I gave it a try.

The audio track is included at the bottom of this newsletter, if you'd rather skip ahead. But I feel like I ought to give some context and explanation.

A lot of us have been stressed out beyond all recognition (“SOBAR,” to coin a phrase) over the past year or so: first the election, then the economy, then all the stuff in Washington—and oh yes, the global pandemic.

If you’ve got kids who are supposed to be in school, but the schools aren’t opening, I think that adds to it, too.

Sometimes, the solution is therapy or medical help. I've certainly availed myself; it's wildly outdated to think there's any stigma associated with seeking professional help for mental health.

And, of course there’s exercise, exposure to nature, being intentional about spending time with friends (even virtually, although that’s kind of getting old).

But this eight-minute musical interlude is pretty intriguing.

It dates back to 2011, when a British band called Marconi Union teamed up with a group of sound therapists to create a track called Weightlessness, designed to stimulate specific neurological reactions.

Researchers said they played the song for a group of 40 women, tracking their breathing, brain activity, and blood pressure, and found it to be 11 percent more relaxing than the next-most-stress-reducing song they could find, according to results published in the British newspaper, The Telegraph.

The science behind it:

  • a rhythm that begins at 60 beats per minute and gradually slows to around 50. (“While listening, your heart rate gradually comes to match that beat," Lyz Cooper, founder of the British Academy of Sound Therapy, told the newspaper.)

  • the 8-minute length, because (Cooper again): "It takes about five minutes for this process, known as entrainment, to occur."

  • the structure of the gaps between the song's notes (designed to "create a feeling of euphoria and comfort," according to Cooper), and

  • the lack of a "repeating melody, which allows your brain to completely switch off because you are no longer trying to predict what is coming next." 

The song "works at a very deep level within the brain, stimulating not only those regions responsible for processing sound but also ones associated with emotions," said Dr. David Lewis-Hodgson, a neuropsychologist who oversaw the study.

Anyway, given where we are in the world, and despite my skepticism for quick fixes, I tried it. My friends, it worked. During the time that I listened to the song—fully aware of what it was designed to do—I felt myself relaxing.

The mild sinus headache I'd been enduring disappeared. I could feel my breathing and heart rate slow. A feeling of calmness enveloped me. I heard a faint ringing sound—almost like a pleasurable version of tinnitus.

Again, this is not a cure-all. It's certainly not a substitute for combining all the habits I listed above, or for professional help. And as songs go—I mean, I wouldn’t recommend this as the tune to get everyone out on the dance floor at a wedding, but it’s worth a listen.

Let’s just put it this way: If you've got anxiety and you've got eight minutes, you might find it really interesting.

The track is embedded below, but in case that doesn’t work for some reason, here’s a link. You can also find it pretty much every other place you'd download music, too.

Let me know if it works for you—and also, if you have other stress-reduction, calming techniques you’d like to share.

7 other things worth your time

Thanks for reading. Photo credit: Pixabay. I’ve written about this song before on Inc.com. If you’re not a subscriber, please sign up for the daily Understandably.com email newsletter—with thousands and thousands of 5-star ratings from happy readers.

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